Yvonne Kason, MD on Spiritually Transformative Experiences
Interview with Dr. Yvonne Kason by Phil Bolsta
Watch Yvonne Kason’s interview:
Welcome, Yvonne. Thank you for joining us today.
Thank you for having me, Phil.
Allow me to introduce you. Yvonne Kason is a retired family physician and transpersonal MD psychotherapist. Her medical specialty was the research and counseling of patients who had diverse types of spiritually transformative experiences, or STEs, an industry term that she herself coined. She was the first Canadian medical doctor to specialize her practice on near-death experiences and other STEs.
[Yvonne is the President of Spiritual Awakenings International, a new global network dedicated to raising awareness about NDEs and other Spiritually Transformative Experiences. She is the Past President of the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) and is a member of the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences. She has published five books, including her brand-new one, Touched by the Light: Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences.]
Yvonne, you've had five near-death experiences, which is astonishing.
Yeah, that's true.
Yes, it's astonishing and true. As well as a Kundalini awakening and other spiritually transformative experiences too. I'd like to begin by exploring each of these experiences and sharing how each one taught you important life lessons and redirected your personal and career path. Let's start with your first near-death experience as an adult.
Right. Well, my first near-death experience as an adult happened in 1979. I was a young medical doctor at the time. I graduated and I was finishing my medical residency. I was assigned on this particular day as a resident to go on a medevac (medical evacuation) by airplane of a critically ill Native Indian woman to a larger hospital that had the emergency facilities that she needed for her critical condition. This was in northern Ontario in the middle of winter.
Well, on this particular day when I was in the medevac plane with this critically ill patient, the plane flew into bad weather. It flew into a blizzard. It was a small twin engine airplane called the Piper Aztec, and one air filter froze over. They did an inquiry afterwards so they found out why the engine stopped, but basically one engine stopped. And then the second engine stopped and the plane crashed.
And my first reaction in the plane as I saw that both propellers had stopped, and that through terrible air turbulence the plane was falling down to the ground, my first reaction was intense fear and panic. From my heart came like a reflex prayer, "God, help. I'm going to die," just the thought, "God, help. I'm going to die," and it was in that instant that my near-death experience began — before the plane had even crashed.
What happened was, all of a sudden, this force field of peace descended upon me. And it felt like it was pushing away all of my fear, and I suddenly felt calm and still. Then I heard a voice in my mind say, "Be still and know that I am God. I am with you now and always." I was still awake. The plane hadn't crashed yet. But these words penetrated my soul with peace and I felt we were safe whether we would live or die.
Anyway, the plane then... Heroically, the pilot managed to do sort of a semi-guided crash landing onto the surface of a semi-frozen lake. The plane came down and skidded across the ice. And at first, it looked like we were going to be safe but we were skidding right to the edge of open water. The plane miraculously came to a stop right at the edge of the ice. But as soon as it stopped, the weight of the plane settled and it broke the ice and the plane started sinking very rapidly.
So I had to get out of this plane really quickly. I was still in this state of peace but I knew I had to get out of the plane. I managed to eventually get out the front door, tried to get the patient out of the plane too but was unsuccessful. The plane nosedived and went down into deep water. I found myself there in open water in the middle of winter, wearing a heavy winter parka and winter boots, looking around in this blizzard, subzero weather.
The ice was a distance away from me to the left. And to the right was a big stretch of open water with a strong current towards the closest shore, which was an island. The spot that we crashed, I later found out, was called Devil's Gap, on Lake of the Woods by Kenora. And it's called Devil's Gap because the current is so strong there that it's treacherous in winter and summer, and the ice never freezes over in the winter.
The pilot started shouting, "Try to get on the ice! Try to get on the ice!" But the voice in my head said, "Swim to shore." But I'd never had this type of experience before with an inner voice, so I mentally argued with this voice. I thought, "No." I went to lifeguarding training when I was younger. And in the case of a boating accident, they say never try swimming to shore. You'll drown if you do.
So I listened to the pilot instead of the inner voice, and I tried to climb on the ice. But the ice was too thin; it couldn't support my weight. And the voice repeated, "Swim to shore." But again, I struggled and struggled, trying to get on the ice. A third time the voice repeated, "Swim to shore," and this time, I surrendered to it and I started swimming to shore.
Now, it was a really long and a really difficult swim. Some people say it's a miracle that I physically was able to swim that long distance in cold water wearing the heavy winter clothes that I was wearing. I went under several times in the process of trying to swim to shore.
Somewhere in the process of swimming to shore is when my near-death experience deepened. All of a sudden, I heard a whooshing noise — whoosh! — and it was as if I or my point of perception had suddenly raised out of my body. And I was no longer in my physical body that was swimming to shore, but it looked like I was watching my body from maybe 20, 30 feet above my body. But it was not that straightforward because a part of me was still in my body.
The best I can compare that to was sort of like a split-screen TV where you have the main image on the big screen. The main image, most of my perception, was up out of my body. But like the tiny little image in the corner of the screen, a tiny little piece of my consciousness was still in the body that was still struggling to swim to shore. Really, it was like my consciousness was two places at once. But most of my consciousness was out of my body.
And then I raised even further and I went into this realm of light. And it was a space that... the closest I’ve found that resembles this place is the very, very tops of clouds if you're flying up in an airplane. Just before the plane breaks through the top of clouds into the sunlight above the clouds, there's this time where it's bright and sparkly and white in the top of clouds. And that's really what it felt like, that sort of translucent luminescence, soft, diffused white light.
Iin this space of light, the most profound feeling of unconditional love swept through me. It was the most beautiful, the most perfect, complete love I had ever felt. And although I didn't hear words or anybody explaining, I just knew somehow... I just knew to my soul that I was experiencing, glimpsing, feeling the love of the higher power, that this was the love of the higher power that was permeating my soul. I basked in this until my body was eventually rescued and reheated in the hospital later on.
Now with great difficulty, I managed to swim to shore, and a whole series of coincidences, if you believe in coincidences, led to me ultimately being rescued. The pilot, the nurse, and I were rescued by a helicopter that was nearby, and we were brought to Kenora Hospital. And I remember watching from above as my near frozen and unconscious body was placed on a stretcher and wheeled into the emergency room department of the hospital after it was taken out of the helicopter.
I watched from above as the nurses were trying to take my temperature. They had just put one of those loose-weave cotton blankets on top of my frozen body and they were using a standard thermometer to try to take my body temperature. The nurse was puzzled because she was not able to get a temperature reading on her thermometer, and the reason was that I was too cold, I was so hypothermic that my body temperature was below the bottom reading of her thermometer.
Anyway, all of a sudden, I heard a voice say, "Boy, could I use a hot bath." And I was surprised to realize those words had come out of my physical body. I hadn't thought of saying that but somehow those words came out of my physical body. And then the nurses looked at each other and said, "Hey, maybe that would help them. Let's wheel them down to the physiotherapy department and put them in the hot whirlpool baths." They did and it turned out that that was exactly what we needed and what I needed in order to survive this near-freezing incident.
And when they'd put me in the hot whirlpool bath and my body reheated, is when I finally felt my consciousness reenter my body. And what I felt like was whoosh! It's like I imagine what a genie would feel like being sucked back into a bottle. I was suddenly, from this big expansive place high above, sucked down into the small confines of my physical body, and then I knew I was back.
I remember rubbing my arms and my legs in the water. They were frozen but I was in the hot water and I was saying, "I'm back. I'm back. I'm going to live. I'm going to live." So, that was my first adult near-death experience.
Wow, just wow. I can't even begin to imagine going through such an intense experience. That's just incredible.
It was a really intense experience. But it was beautiful and it had really powerful aftereffects on me. For the first several weeks after this experience, it was like I was love intoxicated. I was just so full of love. It's like I brought some of that love back with me. I just felt love for everyone and for everything. I'd look out my window and I'd see the squirrels playing on my lawn and that would make me feel just waves of love coming out of my heart. I'd listen to music, songs about anything, love, parents, children, waves of love would come out of my heart. It was like I was bubbling, oozing the love that I had experienced in that near-death experience.
I also was able to heal my relationship with my father. I'd been fighting with him for several years. But somehow in the love that stayed with me after that near-death experience, it didn't matter. We were able to resolve our differences and make amends with each other and we ended up having a good relationship until he died about seven years later. It was profoundly transformative and very positive.
But another thing happened shortly after it that confused me a little bit, because a few weeks after this experience... And by the way, when it happened, I had no idea it was a near-death experience. I had no word to label this experience, and I was searching for a word to label this experience. But a few weeks later when I was driving to visit a friend, I had my first... what I now realize... my first psychic experience, my first clairvoyant experience.
I was driving to visit my friend; I was stopped at a red light in my car. And all of a sudden in my mind's eye, I got a clear visual image of my friend's brain covered in pus. And as a medical doctor, to me this symbol was clear: this was a symbol for meningitis. And sure enough, later that day, my friend was diagnosed with meningitis.
Now, I'd had this unusual experience in the plane crash that was leaving me filled with love and bliss afterwards... had also made me absolutely certain that the soul lives on after death, and that God wasn't a man up on a throne with a long beard, but that God was more like a force underlying the universe and a force of love. So what was this experience, and now what had happened to me with this image in my mind afterwards?
I started searching for words to try and describe what my experiences were. And I did talk to somebody who said they thought themselves an expert on near-death experiences shortly after this experience, and they told me that my experience was definitely not a near-death experience because I hadn't seen a tunnel and because I'd never been actually clinically dead. So I thought, Okay, if it's not a near-death experience, what is it?
The best term I was able to find for many years was "a mystical experience." For many years, I called what happened to me in the plane crash the mystical experience that happened to me in the plane crash. But now, I know like other NDE researchers know, you don't have to be clinically dead to have a near-death experience, that facing death or thinking you're about to die is enough of a trigger for many people to have a full-blown near-death experience.
I now know that that definitely was a near-death experience. And the psychic awakening that happened to me shortly afterwards is also something that very frequently happens to people following near-death experiences.
What implications did this near-death experience have on your career, because it was another 16 years before your next near-death experience?
Well, this had a major, major impact on my career. I, a few years earlier, had had another unusual experience while I was meditating. And maybe I'll talk about that right now too because it, combined with my near-death experience, propelled me into specializing my medical practice into counseling and researching people who had diverse types of spiritually transformative experiences.
And that experience happened in 1976 when I was in my last year of medical school. I'd been meditating with a group, and I had an experience while I was meditating where all of a sudden I heard a roaring noise like a roar of a waterfall. And I felt this rush of energy go up my body and back. Then my consciousness expanded, and I seemed to fill the entire room. I was no longer the size of like my head; it was like I had expanded and I filled this entire auditorium that I was sitting in. And I had transformed into a force field of love. I remained in this expansive state until my meditation ended. And then it was like the whole thing reversed again.
Back then, I'd only been meditating for a few months... this lifetime. I had thought in my naivete that I've finally got my technique right, that all the other experiencers were having this every time they meditated. I was actually embarrassed to tell people that I'd finally figured out how to meditate right so that I had this wonderful experience. And I thought, Wow, no wonder people love to meditate. This is so awesome.
But after a few weeks of not being able to reproduce this, I asked some of the senior meditators, "What am I doing wrong with my meditation? Why am I not able to have that love-bliss experience with the energy going up the spine?" And I remember that person looking at me and their jaw dropping and saying, "What? That happened to you when you were meditating?" That was my first clue that it wasn't happening to everybody all the time when they meditated.
And he started to scratch his chin and said, "Well, you know, I really don't know what to say, Yvonne. It sounds a bit like a Kundalini awakening. But, oh, that's not possible, you know. That only happens to very advanced meditators after you've been meditating for years and years and years. So, I don't know what happened to you."
So I'd had that experience. I now know that was indeed a Kundalini awakening, but back then I didn't know what it was. Then I had this powerful experience in the plane crash, which again I didn't know was a near-death experience. I was trying to figure out what that was and I thought it was a mystical experience. And then I had the psychic awakening, so I started researching just for myself, sort of as a side interest. In my medical practice, I was practicing mainstream Western medicine, but privately in my [home, I was researching spiritual experiences and] meditating regularly twice a day.
I went on like a spiritual quest trying to understand various types of spiritual experiences. What's been written about it in yoga, in Christianity, in Judaism, in Kabbalah? In all different traditions, what's been written about spiritual experiences? And so this was a private quest for many years and it was separate from my medical work.
But over these years, somehow, more and more people started hearing about me via the grapevine, so people were coming to see me in my practice as patients and telling me about their own spiritual experiences, about their own mystical experiences, about their own Kundalini awakenings, about their own near-death experiences, about their own psychic experiences. So I developed more and more clinical experience of all these people talking to me about having diverse STEs or spiritually transformative experiences. And I was researching it plus I'd had a bunch of my own.
All of this came together in 1990 when I had a very strong... I call it "my calling experience." And I talk about that in more detail in my books, but now I'll just say I had a strong calling experience where it all came together. And I realized that I had a calling from Spirit, a mission if you want, which was as a doctor, as a medical doctor, to stand up and say to the medical profession, to the public, to anyone who would listen.. near-death, mystical, Kundalini, other types of spiritually transformative experiences are real. They are happening to people today, and they are not signs of mental illness. Because up until this point, the medical profession had been labeling all of these experiences as hallucinations or signs of mental illness. And this was simply not true.
And that is when in 1990, I became public about my near-death experience, about my Kundalini awakening, my psychic awakening, that these experiences are real. I've had them. They're happening to people today and they're not a sign of mental illness.
Wow. What an incredible story you have. And then you had another plane-related near-death experience in 1995. How did that unfold?
Well, that's right. I wrote my first book on spiritually transformative experiences, which came out in '94. And in 1995, I actually had been in Edmonton giving a talk and promoting my book. I was flying back to Toronto that day on a large Air Canada jet.
And once again, this time in a large commercial airline, we flew into bad weather in winter — we have a lot of bad weather in the winter in Canada. The plane was being buffeted really badly by this ice storm, and ice was forming on the wings. Then when the plane was coming down finally to touch down at Toronto International Airport, we were almost going to hit the runway. I could see it ahead of us, the lights of the runway, looking out my window.
All of a sudden, the pilot slammed the flaps back and raced the engines. He was trying to abort the landing and get the plane to take off again. Now, the plane had slowed down a lot and was real heavy because there was lots of ice formed on the wings. It was shaking horribly with air turbulence and the engines were screaming. He was not able, it seemed, to be able to abort the landing. I later found out that the pilot had seen coyotes on our runway and we would have crashed into the coyotes and had a crash landing, which is why he had to abort the landing right before we landed.
Everyone in the plane just went into a panic immediately: "Oh, my God. I'm going to die." People were crying and screaming. Some people were starting to throw up from the turbulence. And I remember that immediately the thought came into my mind. Oh, I was meant to survive that other plane crash so that I would do my work and that I would write my book. But I'm going to die today in this plane crash.
I had learned by this point that if you're going to die, the best way to die is to die consciously, to go into meditation, go as high as you can, go straight to the light, do not stop anywhere in between. So I immediately went into meditation. I prayed to God to look after my young son, and I immediately went into my near-death experience because I thought I was going to die.
My near-death experience started instantly. I suddenly found myself out of body, and I was traveling upwards, I guess, through what people call the tunnel. To me, I experienced it like a dark expanse of space. I was traveling upwards higher, higher, higher, higher, higher, higher. But this time, I was consciously pushing to go higher. I was pushing with my consciousness to go deeper and deeper and deeper. I was striving to get back to the white light where I had gone to in my first adut near-death experience.
And then I had a life review, something I had not had previously. And it seemed as if I was skipping through time like a stone skipping across the surface of the water. Then I would touch down and I would be at another point in time. It was as if my whole consciousness was back in time and I was experiencing it as if I was there now myself. And the three places that I touched down in my life review, that I re-experienced in their fullness, were three of the peak spiritual experiences that I had had in my life.
I re-experienced being in the white light after the plane crash in my 1979 NDE. It was like I was there again, re-experiencing it like I was there again. Then I went into my powerful calling mystical experience that I had in 1990. It was like I was having the experience again, as if I had traveled back in time. And then I went to another powerful mystical experience I'd had in my meditation back in about 1994. And again, it was like I was there in time, in that circumstance, having the experience again.
Then the life review stopped, and I found myself in this expanse of darkness moving upwards, upwards, upwards again. This time, the color changed to a deep royal blue. It was a royal blue all around me. I was continuing to move up towards the light and then all of a sudden, my passage was blocked by a being of light in front of me, obstructing my progress forwards.
This being of light was translucent and bluish. It was like a translucent royal blue, the same royal blue as the space around me was at that time. This being of light had the most unique form — the closest I've ever seen to it is you see some statues of the dancing shiva, because it seemed to have four arms that were being held in very distinct postures, and also one leg was held up like in a dancing posture.
This being of light also was half-male and half-female; on one side it was male, on the other side it was female. It exuded an aura of love, serenity, peace, and it telepathically communicated to me: It is not your time. And boom, just like that, just instantly, I found myself back in the airplane, back in my body, and the plane was still shaking with horrible turbulence; the pilot was still trying to get it to ascend.
At that instant, it's as if my third eye was wide open. I could see etheric hands of light holding the plane as it was shaking. I knew we were going to be okay. Finally, the pilot did manage to take us up and around; then he informed us that there had been coyotes on the runway and he had to abort the landing.
He finally circled around the airport and then finally successfully landed at a later time. Now, I was in a most extraordinary state of consciousness after this near-death experience. It felt as if I didn't have a skin. It felt as if there was no boundary between me and the world around me.
In this extraordinary state, I navigated getting off the plane, getting my luggage from the luggage pick-up, going home, and then I went to bed that night and had a very deep, sound sleep. The next morning when I woke up, I found myself in a unitive state of consciousness.
I felt I was home. It felt like where the top of my head used to be, there was no skull anymore and I was directly connected to this vast ocean of consciousness that I call God. In this state of communion, I didn't need anybody to tell me or explain to me what I was experiencing. I absolutely knew what I was experiencing.
While in this state of union, I was also completely aware that every sentient being is as directly connected as I was. All of us were like a million legs on a millipede. We're all connected in the same way. The only difference was that in this unitive state, that veil that was blocking my perception of that unity had been removed and I was aware that I was connected... and there was an open flow of bliss, wisdom, joy.
I didn't tell anybody. I didn't tell anybody this for years. I'm only now talking about it because I feel now as a senior, it's time to share what I've learned, and share what I've experienced, for the next generation moving forward... that it is absolutely possible... unitive consciousness is possible for ordinary people like you and me. It's not just for Jesus and the great saints. They said it's possible for every one of us. It is possible. This state of unitive consciousness lasted for about two months and those were the most wonderful two months of my life. But there's this saying in yoga: before enlightenment, chopping wood and hauling water; after enlightenment, chopping wood and hauling water, and that's exactly what it was like.
I just led my life as normal. I went to my office, I did my chores, I paid my bills, but all the time I was in this profound unitive state of consciousness. The psychotherapy work I was able to do with my patients while I was in that state was phenomenal. They would walk into my room in my office and before they even said anything, it's like I had this incredible open-circuit intuition; I would know what the issues were that they were dealing with. And I also knew how I could best help them.
This was profound, but I found as time went on, my consciousness started contracting. I would have to meditate with my concentration here, on my third eye, and focus, and then whoosh, I would pop back into that unitive state. But as time went on, I look at it as my karma caught up with me, I guess... it became more and more difficult for me to get back into that unitive state. And then finally, at the end of two months, I was no longer able to get myself back into that state of communion. I have been striving to get into that state of communion again ever since.
Wow. Did this experience beyond what you already described redirect you in some way or impart further lessons you feel you needed to learn in order to fulfill your mission?
Yes, absolutely. This experience changed me profoundly. After my first adult near-death experience, I went on this quest of learning and studying from different teachers and from different traditions.
Then, after my calling experience, I was very much committed to service. Serving others, serving others, serving others... helping others was really my passion.
After this 1995 near-death experience and the two months of communion I had afterwards, a big shift happened in me, from outer goals in my life to the inner goal in my life. My goal was not doing things in the world anymore, although I continued to serve, and I continued to learn. My higher goal — and more important goal for me — from that point forward was my inner spiritual quest.
Surrendering my ego attachments, working on self-purification, and deepening, deepening, deepening in my meditation — that was my goal from that point forward. It was an inner spiritual goal. Yes, I will continue to serve, yes I will continue to learn, but my top priority from that point forward became my personal spiritual path.
Wow. Your most recent near-death experience came eight years later in 2003 while you once again attained a blissful unitive state and it happened while you were in that state. How did that unfold?
Well, my most recent near-death experience, my third adult near-death experience happened on November 8, 2003. On that day, I was meditating at Niagara Falls. It was the day of a full moon eclipse. They called it the harmonic concordance astrologically. It was supposed to be very auspicious, and I love to meditate at Niagara Falls. I find the roar of the waterfall sounds like the Om vibration. I tend to go very deep very quickly if I meditate there at the tunnels underneath the falls or at the base of the falls.
That evening, I was meditating at the base of the falls and had a very, very, very deep meditation experience. In that experience, for the first time since my 1995 near-death experience and communion, I felt like I re-entered that state of communion.
I remember feeling and thinking, "I'm home. Oh, I found my way back home." I didn't know how long it would last because the last time it had only lasted for two months, but I knew that if I'd ever found my way back home once, that I'd be able to find my way back home again.
I felt tremendous joy that yes, it was possible to find my way back home again. In that state, I also had a mystical vision. I saw a being of light, and this was one of my gurus. This was Mahavatar Babaji in his light body. I heard him telepathically say, Welcome home.
I felt such joy. Little did I know that two hours later, I was going to die and have what [actually became] a near-death experience because I came back. But I died. It makes me wonder if the two hours of communion I had before I died was actually my deathbed experience. This is a phenomenon that many people have shortly before they die, where it seems like the veils are thin between this side and the other side. Frequently, people will be speaking to deceased loved ones or a saint or an angel on the other side shortly before they die.
I wonder if this was my deathbed experience before I died two hours later, or if it was simply my time to find my way home again. I don't know. Only God knows for sure.
Anyway, two hours later, I had a slip-and-fall accident. I was still at Niagara Falls. I slipped on black ice. I fell and hit my head on the rock, had a serious traumatic brain injury with a brain hemorrhage, and I died.
What happened then was instantly, my spirit was whisked out of my body by a force greater than myself. I rapidly rushed up through the dark evening sky. I found myself welcomed into the realm of light. I was being welcomed into that realm of white light again, this time by two beings of light.
They were two beings of light that I immediately recognized, two great saints that I love, gurus of my spiritual path: Mahavatar Babaji and Paramahansa Yogananda in their light bodies. They welcomed me into the light. And they telepathically explained to me that I had died, that my work in the body of Dr. Yvonne Kason was done. The feeling was of celebration, of joy, of love, like "Job well done."
There was no life review or looking at any mistakes that I'd made in my life. Because heavens, everybody makes mistakes in their lives, me included. But it seemed like that was irrelevant in the love of the light. It was just joy. It was bliss. It was ecstasy.
Much was revealed to me in the light, in my time in the light. The passage of time didn't seem like the passage of time down here. I call it timeless time. It seemed like the past, present, and future all coexisted up there, or you could see all of them at the same time.
I could see, it was revealed to me, like a veil had been removed from a big jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces were in place now — and these pieces were all my past lives. I could see how all my past lives fit together, and suddenly my life as Dr. Yvonne Kason made sense to me.
It's like an Aha! experience, of why my life had unfolded the way it had, within the context of my many past lives. I basked in the joy and the love, the bliss, the ecstasy of the white light for timeless time. Then the beings of light, the saintly Paramahansa Yogananda and Mahavatar Babaji, reappeared to me in their light bodies and telepathically communicated to me, You may now choose whether to return to the body of a babe, to further serve Divine Mother there, and/or to go back to the maimed body, to serve Divine Mother in that form.
That was just perfect for me because I had always prayed in my life to be an instrument of the Divine, and at that point of my life, I was relating to the Divine as the Divine Mother. For that request to be given to my soul in those words was absolutely perfect for my soul.
My soul responded. It felt as if the answer did not come out of my head, but came out of my heart. It felt like my heart responded, and my heart replied, "Oh, Masters, guide me. What is the higher choice? I want to do God's will." So lovingly and so gently, the thought came back to my mind: You may choose. And again, my heart replied, "Oh, please guide me." Then so sweetly, the thought returned to me, It will be more difficult, but to go back. And immediately, my heart responded, "I accept." Faster than the speed of thought, faster than my heart or soul could utter "I accept"... between the thought "I" and the thought "accept" is when, with a gasp of air, I woke up in my previously dead body. It felt like waking up in an ice cube.
As I started breathing life back into my body, for the first few minutes I could see both realities at the same time. It was like both realms were superimposed one on top of each other. I could see this worldly realm where I was laying on the ground with a splitting headache, trying to breathe life back into my body, and I could also see the realm of light with my Masters.
They seemed that they welcomed me into the light when I died, but they also ushered me back into my body when I was to come back into my physical form. But then the realm of light faded from view until there was just a little, little dot still of that connection to the light. I found myself back here in this physical form, but with a serious, traumatic brain injury.
But... but... and this is the big but, you had a phenomenal healing experience from this traumatic brain injury that gives me chills every time I hear it. You've got to share that story.
Okay. Well, let me just say that after this traumatic brain injury, I was completely disabled. I was unable to practice medicine anymore. I was unable to counsel patients, I was unable to write books anymore, I was unable to give talks anymore, I was unable even to volunteer in my son's school.
I was so challenged with the physical difficulties I had following this traumatic brain injury. I tried vigorously for years and years and years through neuro rehabilitation, all sorts of treatments, traditional medical, as well as alternative... all sorts of things to try and get better. But it became clear to me with time that for whatever reason in the divine plan, I was now disabled.
I came to terms with that, I accepted it. I thought, "Well, maybe in the divine plan, the way that I'm going to serve from this point forward is with my prayer and my meditation, that I will silently pray and meditate for others." So I very much focused on my spiritual path, on prayer and deeply, deeply meditating, getting deeper in my meditation.
By the way, one of the things I lost in my traumatic brain injury was my ability to meditate. I had been a meditator since my early '20s and meditation was a rock in my life. To completely lose my ability to meditate was something I would not stand for. I was determined that I would get back my ability to meditate.
I worked really hard, along with my physical rehabilitation, on my meditation rehabilitation. It took me years to get back my ability to meditate. Even to be able to meditate an hour took me, I would say at least two years of trying, trying, trying, starting with five minutes, then 10 minutes, and slowly 20 minutes until I was finally up to a point where I could meditate for an hour.
It was not until perhaps four or five years after my head injury that I finally was able to meditate for two hours. Then it was another couple of years after that when I could finally manage to force myself to meditate for three hours. Then it increased to four hours and to five hours, and I've now been able to do long meditations for up to six hours.
I went on meditation retreats regularly, at least twice a year, and at these meditation retreats, I would focus very much on long and deep meditation, which I loved. My healing experience happened on February 24, 2016, while I was on meditation retreat in Encinitas, California.
On that day, I was maybe four or five days into my meditation retreat. I'd been meditating maybe four to five hours per day each day while on retreat. Suddenly, on this day while I was meditating, I experienced inwardly a fountain of light, a fountain of light erupt in the center of my brain.
This was an inner perception. It literally felt like [the lights suddenly came back on in] a part of my brain that had been in darkness ever since my head injury 12 years earlier. This fountain of light was illuminating the central part of my brain.
It felt like a part of my brain that had been asleep for 12 years since my traumatic brain injury suddenly woke up — and it woke up with gusto. What happened at the same time as this light, was like a floodgate opened. My inspired creativity, my writing creativity, ideas for my books were flooding, flooding, flooding, flooding, flooding through my consciousness.
When my meditation ended, I went quickly to my room and I wrote in my journal; I was writing down all these ideas I had for my future books. And this healing has been sustained. My inspired writing creativity, my ability to public speak, my mental stamina has all healed and has continued to improve since that healing experience in February of 2016.
In my first year following this healing, I wrote two new books... which is a feat for anybody to write two books in one year. But if you've been disabled for 12 years with a traumatic brain injury and suddenly you're able to write two books in one year, to me it's a miracle.
It's a miracle on many levels. It's a miracle in terms of the brain can heal. And I hope other people get this message — to not give up on the hope of healing. Traditional medical science says your brain stops healing two years after an injury. That is simply not true. My healing happened 12 years after my traumatic brain injury.
Secondly, it's a miracle that's a testimonial to the healing power of meditation. After I had this healing, I talked to one of the world experts on brain neuroplasticity, Dr. Norman Doidge. I asked him, "What do you think about this sudden brain healing that I had?"
He told me that he thought it was all the meditation that I was doing, that the current research into brain neuroplasticity — that means the brain changing and the brain healing — shows that meditation is a very powerful stimulus to brain neuroplasticity. Little did I know it that all those years that I was meditating for spiritual reasons, I was also stimulating the healing of my brain.
The third miracle of my brain healing, that I think is the most important part of the whole thing, is the miracle of the grace of God. You just never know when the grace of God might touch your life. I am eternally grateful for that healing that I had two years ago. Thank you, God.
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Your story of healing has surely given hope and comfort to people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.
And other sorts of injuries too. Other things can heal. Other injuries, not just traumatic brain injury. You never know when Spirit might touch your life. Never give up hope for healing. That's my message from that experience. Never give up hope. Miracles do happen.
That's a wonderful and very important message. Thank you for sharing that. We've gone through the three near-death experiences you've experienced as an adult. How were all these NDEs different or similar to each other? And I wanted to ask, when did you realize you also had two near-death experiences as a child?
Yup. Well, let me start with the two near-death experiences I had as a child. Since my healing experience and with my new books, I've now once again become involved with the International Association for Near Death Studies. I'm actually on their board of directors now.
I've also joined ACISTE, which is the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences. So I've been dialoguing with other researchers and with other experiencers. And as I was at these conferences in the last couple of years, it was like a little thing was niggling in my brain... two experiences that I'd had as a child.
Then again, when I was meditating down in Encinitas, they kept on niggling in my brain. I thought, "Huh, why is Spirit constantly putting these two childhood experiences in my brain? Should I maybe as an NDE researcher look at them objectively, see how many criteria they have? They might be near-death experiences too."
Sure enough, when I analyzed them with NDE criteria, I realized, "Oh my goodness. These two experiences I had as a child were also near-death experiences." I had never framed them as near-death experiences. I'll tell you the experiences in a minute. Because as a kid, I just thought it was an experience; it was part of what happened to me as a kid.
I didn't think of it as paranormal or unusual. I had nothing to compare it to. Also, these two childhood near-death experiences were not white light near-death experiences. They were out-of-body experiences. In that way, they were different from my adult NDEs.
All three of my adult NDEs were very powerful, mystical experiences. For many years, I didn't associate the out-of-body experiences I had as a child with these powerful mystical experiences. Now I realize they're part of a spectrum of near-death experiences. Some people with near-death experiences only have the out-of-body component, and other people with near-death experiences start with the out-of-body component and then move on to also have a mystical experience. That is called a deeper near-death experience.
My first near-death experience as a child happened when I was five years old. I was traveling with my parents in Europe that summer, and we were standing at a train station waiting for a train to come in. As a five-year-old, this was new and exciting for me, so I was looking around at the train station, what there was to see. I noticed that some employee of the train station had jumped off one of the platforms, had jumped down onto the railway tracks, and then had climbed up on the next platform.
As a little kid, I thought, "Oh, that looks like fun. I want to do that too." So I immediately leaned forward to jump onto the railway tracks. I was going to climb up, I thought, on the platform on the other side. But just as I was leaning forward, it felt like time stopped. All of a sudden I was out of body. It was like in my consciousness, time still continued, but it was like my life was a movie, and it had frozen in time at a particular place on the screen.
I could see, now that I was out of body and above, that I was jumping directly in front of a rapidly oncoming train. I could see that a train was coming into the station, and I was about to be hit by a train. I remember feeling completely peaceful, completely calm, unafraid... but I had an awareness, "Oh, I'm about to be hit by a train."
Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a hand came from behind me from the platform. The movie of my life started again, and I was pulled back out of the path of the oncoming train and back onto the platform. And then immediately, of course, my parents started scolding me, and the train whizzed by in front of me. I was stunned. But I didn't realize for many years that this was a near-death experience.
But what I do clearly recall, in addition to the time standing still, being out of body, the feeling of tremendous peace and calm, and the very, very clear memory for the experience — these are all symptoms of NDEs — was that it had a transformational impact on me... another symptom of an NDE... when I was a kid.
What this experience did to me as a child is I became absolutely convinced after this experience that I could fly. So that's how I, as a child, understood the experience, that it was the first time I had flown. That was my understanding of what had happened when I was out of body, so much so that I remember when I started kindergarten a month or so after this near-miss accident, I told one of my new friends in kindergarten that I could fly. And this friend laughed at me and said, "No, no. There's no way you can fly." And I said, "Sure I can. I'll show it to you. I'll prove it to you."
I remember coming home with this friend after kindergarten one day and climbing up on the fence in front of my house and jumping off with my arms outstretched to show him that I could fly. And of course I couldn't, and I tumbled down on the ground. I remember how I felt when I fell to the ground; I was confused. I was puzzled. I clearly remembered what to me as a five-year-old was flying. And I now realize that absolute conviction that I could fly was how I as a five-year-old interpreted the out-of-body experience I had with that near-death experience when I was five years old.
My next childhood near-death experience happened when I was 11. And, again, I did not realize this was a near-death experience until really the last couple of years. But what happened when I was 11 years old was that I was in a very serious car accident with the rest of my family. My dad had been driving all of us in his station wagon on the highway, and we'd had a flat. The car went over a steep embankment at the side of the road, and it somersaulted a couple times before it came to a stop.
And in the process of the accident... this was before the days of seat belts, so I was sitting in the back, second row of the car. And there was luggage in the station wagon rear. I'd been thrown out of the backseat, and in with the luggage in the back of the station wagon. And the car got squished as it turned over. So when people came to rescue us and pull people out of the station wagon, I was missed. I was hidden in the luggage in the back of the station wagon.
I had sustained a head injury, and I had lost consciousness. I was unconscious. I've always remembered floating above the accident scene. So I was out of body, and I was above the accident scene. I was looking down, and I could see my father. They had pulled him out of the car and put him on the side of the road, and he had blood all dripping down his face from his injuries. And he was calling out, "My daughter. My daughter," because he saw that they had not found my body yet in the wreckage. And it felt like my soul heard or felt that my father was calling out for me, which is probably why my soul was hovering there above my father.
The next memory I have is hovering above my unconscious body in the emergency room, where the ambulances took us. And my unconscious body was laying on a table, like a surgical table, in the examination room. I was high up by the ceiling, and I remember looking down. And as I was looking down, I could see a big circular metallic lamp, a disc-shaped lamp, which I now know is a surgery or operating room, emergency room lamp.
As a young child I had no idea what they looked like. But I was looking at it from above, looking down, and I could see this lamp above my body, and I could see these two men. I figured they were doctors trying to resuscitate my body. So I have a clear memory of watching that while I was unconscious.
And then my next memory is... I have a very, very clear memory of when suddenly I was back, and I woke up. My period of being unconscious had ended, and I woke up in my body. I remember finding myself in a bed in a children's ward in a hospital. And I had to pee really bad. So I disconnected myself from all the things that I was connected to. I climbed over the side of the bed, and barefoot, I started paddling my way down the hall, trying to find the closest washroom. And then a nurse appeared out of nowhere, rushing down to me. "Oh, you shouldn't be out of bed," scolding me. So that was my second childhood near-death experience.
Now this near-death experience transformed me too, but in a different way from my first one. This one I remember very clearly. For almost a year afterwards I could see ghosts. I remember as a child I thought my house was haunted. And I was afraid to sleep in my own bedroom, because I was seeing these wraith-like spirits in my room at night. I insisted on sleeping in the same bedroom with my younger brother and sister. I felt safer when I was in the same room with other people.
I now realize, many, many years later, that seeing ghosts... it only lasted for about a year, and then that psychic propensity went away... that happens frequently to people after near-death experiences, that they're more open to psychic phenomenon afterwards. So it again is corroborating, that that too was a near-death experience when I was 11 years old.
So I wonder now if somehow having had two near-death experiences as a child somehow predisposed me in my 20s to have a Kundalini awakening and then a mystical near-death experience. Did these two childhood NDEs predispose me to having three more as an adult, five over the course of my lifetime? I really don't know for sure. Or did I come in this lifetime with a propensity for these experiences based on my meditation and spiritual efforts in a past life? That is also a possibility.
You know, if I saw spirits in my bedroom at 11, I would have been more than a little freaked out too.
I was terrified as a kid.
So you had two siblings. And did you share this out-of-body experience with your family?
I don't think so, because I didn't think either of them were anything paranormal. You know, as a kid I did not have anything to judge whether this is something usual or something unusual. It was simply what I experienced. And, I mean, the ghosts... I talked to my parents about that because I was scared. But they just dismissed it, that I was imagining it. I think they probably thought I was maybe upset after the car accident or something like that, and they dismissed it as stress. But I remember it very clearly. And I was very frightened until I stopped seeing them.
I would remember that clearly, too. Well, Yvonne, what led you to coin the phrase Spiritually Transformative Experiences or STEs? And what are the different types of STEs?
Well, I first coined the phrase Spiritually Transformative Experiences back in 1994 in my earlier book called A Farther Shore. And I write about them in my more recent book, Farther Shores, which came out in 2000 and 2008. And in my [brand-new book, Touched by the Light: Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences], I elaborate on Spiritually Transformative Experiences.
Anyway, why I coined it was when I started researching spiritual and paranormal experiences, and I started counseling patients who'd had these diverse types of experiences, I found, as I was traveling to conferences and speaking with professional groups, that these experiences were all being looked at individually. So there'd be one group over here that was researching and looking at near-death experiences. There'd be another group over here that was researching and looking at psychic phenomenon. There'd be another group over here that was researching and looking at Kundalini experiences.
But when I was looking at the spectrum of experiences, and particularly because I was experiencing all of them myself, I felt that there was a connection between these types of experiences... that they weren't separate things, that we needed to look at them together, that they were all somehow connected to this phenomenon of spiritual transformation of consciousness that they talk about in the yogic and the Buddhist traditions. And in fact, they talk about it in the mystical traditions of all the faiths, using different words and vocabulary.
I was very influenced because back in the '70s I met Gopi Krishna. I traveled to India, and I met him. He wrote about Kundalini. He thought that all of these experiences, mystical experiences, psychic phenomenon, near-death experiences, inspired creativity, were all related to the Kundalini awakening and the spiritual transformation of the brain.
And more recently, I was influenced deeply by the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda on the yogic tradition. So in the yogic model it's understood that all of these types of phenomenon can occur as part of our spiritual unfoldment. So I thought it was important to have a way of bringing these experiences together and looking at them all together as part of the spiritual transformation process. And so that's why I coined the phrase Spiritually Transformative Experiences, because I think they're all different ways that the evolving consciousness of the brain can manifest parts of its potential for a more expanded range of consciousness.
Mmm, very interesting. Well, what is your bottom line after 40 years of STE research? What have you learned, and what remains a mystery?
Well, my bottom line after having experienced multiple types of Spiritually Transformative Experiences... By the way, let me say how I categorize Spiritually Transformative Experiences. I categorize them into five main groups. So one would be mystical experiences or what are called samadhis in yoga.
The second group... and there are many types of mystical experiences. And I describe the various types in my books. Then there are the psychic experiences or what are called siddhis in the yogic tradition. And there are many types of psychic phenomenon that people can have.
A third, I call it the spiritual energy or Kundalini awakening. And they may coexist. People may have a spiritual energy/Kundalini awakening, and at the same time have mystical experiences, and at the same time have psychic experiences. But they can also happen independently.
The fourth type is what I would call inspired creativity and genius. And then the fifth type is the near-death experience and other types of death-related STEs. And this would be things like deathbed experiences, deathwatch experiences or shared-death experiences, and after-death communications. So there are a whole bunch of STEs that happen around the time of death. So those are the ways that I categorize Spiritually Transformative Experiences.
I basically see this as my bottom line about Spiritually Transformative Experiences. Number one, they are real. Number two, they can happen to anybody. They don't just happen to advanced saints, mystics, and adepts who've meditated for 50 years in the Himalayas. They could happen to average people like you and me.
And they are not a sign of mental illness. We really have to stop harming people and doing a disservice by mislabeling Spiritually Transformative Experiences as hallucinations or signs of mental illness. So that's a big reason why I'm writing my books and giving talks... is to educate people. These are real peak experiences. They are not mental illness.
Now people can also, I want to say here, sometimes have frightening near-death experiences or frightening psychic phenomenon. It's not all joy and happiness when you start opening your consciousness. In yoga, it's understood that there are different astral planes, different levels in the astral planes. You can open yourself to the higher astral planes and have heavenly bliss experiences or more neutral experiences on our planes.
But sometimes people are accessing some of those lower astral planes. They could have quite frightening experiences, but that also does not mean they're crazy. This is all part of our expanding awareness of the nature of consciousness, the nature of the universe. The yogis have taught about, talked about it for thousands of years. It's time that western medicine and psychology be aware of the range of Spiritually Transformative Experiences.
So that's my one bottom-line thought as a medical doctor. As a human being, as a spiritual being, my bottom line from having had so many STEs and five near-death experiences, is absolutely that God is real. The higher power is real. Whether people believe in it or not is irrelevant. What name they happen to call the higher power is irrelevant. It is real, and its essential nature is love, infinite intelligence, and it is permeating, is penetrating, and is the cause of all creation.
And us as souls, we will not die when our physical bodies die. Our souls will live on. I absolutely know that. I've been out of my body five times now in my five near-death experiences. So I know that the soul lives on independent of the physical body. And I've also been shown my past lives. I know that we reincarnate over and over again to learn and to grow until finally, through a combination of our own spiritual efforts and efforts at purifying ourselves, developing ourselves psychologically as well as spiritually, we will graduate from the school of life and finally find our way home so that we can live in that ongoing unitive state of consciousness, which I think is ultimately, perhaps after many lifetimes, everybody's destiny.
When you know something at the deepest level, it doesn't matter what critics may say. Not believing something doesn't make it any less true.
So tell us more about your upcoming book that's coming out in early 2019, Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences.
Yes, I'm really excited about my new book, [Touched by the Light: Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences.] This is one of the two books that I wrote in the first year after my brain healing. And I wrote it in an inspired state. So I'm very excited about sharing it.
And I'm writing it as a synopsis of everything I've learned in the last 40 years, both as a spiritual seeker and as a doctor and a researcher counseling, you know, over a thousand people who've had these experiences. So I'm happy to share that. I share the story of all five of my near-death experiences in this book and also some of the other peak spiritual experiences I had in my life.
And in this book what I've tried to do is I've tried to form a bridge between the biggest influences in my life. So clearly medicine and psychology... I'm a doctor and a psychotherapist. So I'm bridging the understanding of medicine today and psychology today with the yogic model of consciousness, because I found the yogic model of consciousness gives the best explanation for STEs and spiritual transformation.
And the two biggest influences in my life were Gopi Krishna and the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. So I have weaved these together into one cohesive whole that will hopefully help people to understand Spiritually Transformative Experiences in a balanced eastern and western perspective.
That's fantastic. I look forward to it. I read Farther Shores and got so much out of it, because what I appreciate about your writing — and your speaking today for that matter — is you're very precise in the use of language and very methodical as you articulate something. And that was so helpful in this kind of book, to show all the different types of STEs, what are not STEs, what are the factors. It goes on and on. So it's a wonderful study.
Thank you. Thank you. And the aftereffects of STEs, which I think is very important for people to understand, because you have your experience but then there are aftereffects, physical aftereffects, psychological aftereffects, psychic aftereffects, as well as spiritual aftereffects, both positive ones and also challenging or difficult ones. So that's all part of the process... and all things I discuss in my new book.
Great. Now how would you advise somebody who wants to have an STE without having to be a near-death experience? Can you safely stimulate a spiritually transformative experience?
Well, the good news is yes, that you can absolutely make yourself open or receptive to spiritual experiences. And in yoga there's a very simple guideline. It's called the eight limbs of yoga. So it's the spiritual dos and don'ts, the Yamas and Niyamas, and then meditation. Meditation is the key.
So putting it in western language, it's self-development and moral refinement. So striving to live a good moral life according to the universal spiritual principles — you know, do not lie, do not steal, etc., and then striving to be more loving, more giving, more kind, more compassionate, more forgiving, honest, truthful.
So striving to develop all those attributes within yourself, doing your psychological work, whatever psychological issues that you have... go see a psychotherapist if you need to, absolutely, embrace that inner healing work so that you're psychologically clear. But above all, meditate and pray. Deepen spiritually. Find the path, the spiritual path that resonates with your heart and soul and then embrace it. Follow the spiritual tenets, and meditate every day.
And meditation is really the key, meditation along with this balanced spiritual as well as physical and psychological lifestyle. Meditation will make your consciousness open to STEs, to spiritual experiences. And I have seen, from my work with STE experiencers, the most common stimulus that people recognize for them having a powerful, mystical experience or Kundalini awakening was by far meditation. Meditation is the strongest stimulus for an STE.
What is next for Yvonne? Do you feel your life's mission is still unfolding?
I certainly do. I think I was sent back in order to serve. I was told that, that I was being sent back to serve. And it's clear that I'm going to be serving through my writing and through my talks. And I've already written one more book, which I plan to publish, hopefully a year or so after Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences. And then I already have in my mind two more books that I plan to write. So there's much more writing ahead for Dr. Yvonne Kason.
And I'm currently on the board of directors of the International Association for Near Death Studies. So I'm also going to be serving there, helping to spread awareness around the world about near-death experiences so people will stop feeling isolated and confused when they have one of these experiences.
Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing your wisdom and many, many experiences with us today. What a fascinating life you've led.
I can't complain.
Thank you so much.
You're welcome. Thank you for having me, Phil.
Yvonne Kason, MD, is a retired family physician and transpersonal MD-psychotherapist, previously on faculty at the University of Toronto. Her medical specialty was the research and counseling of patients who had diverse types of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (STEs), a phrase she coined that is now used widely by many professionals in the field.
Yvonne was the first Canadian medical doctor to specialize her practice on near-death experiences (NDEs) and other STEs. She was a founding member of the Kundalini Research Network; the Canadian coordinator of the Spiritual Emergence Network; the founder of the Spiritual Emergence Research and Referral Clinic; and the co-founder of the Spirituality in Health-Care Network.
She is the President of Spiritual Awakenings International, a new global network dedicated to raising awareness about NDEs and other Spiritually Transformative Experiences. She is the Past President of the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) and is a member of the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences.
She is currently a member — and was the 2018 Keynote speaker for — ACISTE (American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experience), and was a founding member of the Kundalini Research Network and numerous other organizations that explore the intersection between medical science and spirituality.
She’s published five books, including her brand-new one, Touched by the Light: Exploring Spiritually Transformative Experiences.